Elon Musk buys Twitter, now what?

We seem to be living in a time where “memes” are becoming reality. When Kanye West announcement in 2015 his plans to run for president in 2020, no one believed him until he did this. Fortunately, this event turned out to be largely inconsequential. A current meme coming true is Elon Musk’s recent decision to buy twitter – one of the most popular social media apps and source of information for many – that has the potential to radically alter the shape of our public discourse and give a private individual societal influence on par with our elected officials more powerful.

Billionaires like Elon Musk having as much, if not more, power than some well-known elected officials is a huge problem in a modern, technologically advanced society. These wealthy people can already edit markets with a single post, but with complete control of media institutions, they remove what little content filtering there is and risk allowing other users to spread dangerous misinformation.

Nor would Musk be the only billionaire with considerable media power. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the greatest third the richest man, bought the Washington Post in 2013. Over the past 10 years, numerous other trusted media institutions have become the property of the mega-rich. And, of course, Facebook – a constant source of social media scandal — is headed by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, so often at the center of the platform’s controversies. In short, buying Musk would continue the consolidation of media power in the hands of the incredibly wealthy.

What makes Musk’s purchase of Twitter unique, however, is the effect Twitter’s policies have on public discourse — particularly its use to spread dangerous information. disinformation – as well as the fact that Musk plans to take Twitter private, exempting it from accountability to public shareholders. By taking such measures, Musk has more ability to resist the will of regulators and investors.

Along with the broader issue of a billionaire with significant media power, Musk himself brings a long list of issues — sometimes with the law — that make his takeover of Twitter all the more alarming. For example, in February 2022, Musk and his brother were placed under investigation by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for potential insider trading.

Another issue is Musk’s stance on content moderation. He is a big fan of increasing “freedom of expression” on Twitter and, therefore, can To allow Donald Trump back on the platform after his ban. The move comes as no surprise, as Musk has made clear his desire to embolden public figures who spread misinformation. Additionally, Musk recently revealed – via a Tweet – that he would be vote Republican now, stating that “The reality is that Twitter at this point, you know, has a very left-wing bias.” With extensive control of Twitter, some worry that Musk’s political leanings would lead him to limit liberal speech or amplify derogatory speech toward minority groups.

While a man owning a business that is the outlet for such high public discourse is worrisome — and Musk being that person is even more worrisome — Musk’s purchase has drawn attention to serious social media issues. . More so, Musk talked about surprisingly reasonable – albeit underdeveloped – solutions.

For starters, it really sounds like Musk wants to build trust between Twitter and the American public. Open source code for aspects of Twitter such as the algorithm, which many Twitter users are suspicious of and complain about its opacity, can only be positive. His talks about User authentication have been relatively broad, but depending on their scope, they could yield tangible benefits. If, in authenticating himself and limiting spam, Musk means that users must use their real name, photo, etc., the risk of misinformation and violent rhetoric would likely decrease significantly. People are much more likely to voice ill-thought-out opinions when they can do so anonymously, and attaching one’s true identity to their comments would serve well to hold individuals accountable. However, this seems unlikely. Musk likely means a more targeted approach, where bot accounts are more strictly monitored and removed. Even this narrower scope has real benefits. Bots are not only annoying (they muddy the real discourse and public opinion), but they often work for amplify disinformation, division and violent rhetoric.

Concern about what Musk will be able to do with Twitter raises another important issue: the regulation of social media companies. If the US government were more willing to strictly regulate social media, the damage Musk could do would be much more limited. A majority of American adults to believe that the government should strengthen the regulation of technology and social media companies, although some fear that the First Amendment will complicate matters. At this point, it’s unclear if the Twitter deal will close. If anything, it looks like Musk will to move back okay, not Twitter. This result still seems unlikely, however, since – on top of the damage to his reputation – Musk could lose billions. If the deal goes through, Musk will currently only have daily Twitter users to try and nudge him in the right direction. We can only hope they will succeed.

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